Polity is a fancy word for government, and in the nineteenth-century, when it came to church government, the Rev. S. J. Baird was one of the most knowledgeable men around.
Samuel John Baird was born at Newark, Ohio, on September 12, 1817. His parents were the Rev. Thomas Dickson Baird and Esther Thompson Baird. Samuel began his education at Jefferson College, but poor health interrupted his studies. In 1839 he took charge of a school near Abbeville, South Carolina and subsequently opened a Female Seminary [essentially a college for women] at Jeffersonville, Louisiana. Returning to college, he graduated from Central College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1843. Somehow he managed to concurrently graduate from the New Albany Theological Seminary, in Indiana, that same year.
After being licensed to preach in August of 1843 by the Presbytery of Transylvania, he devoted three years to the missionary work in the Presbytery of Baltimore, in Kentucky, and in the southwest. Then in 1846, he was ordained by Potomac Presbytery, and installed as pastor, first at Bladensburg, Maryland, and later at Georgetown, Kentucky. He also served churches in Clarksville, Tennessee and Batesville, Arkansas. During his time in that latter charge, Rev. Baird was also instrumental in laying the foundation for Arkansas College. From there, he served as pastor in Muscatine, Iowa, 1854-57 and Woodbury, New Jersey, 1857-65.
After resigning this last charge, Baird began work under a joint commission from the American Bible Society and the Virginia Bible Society, laboring as their agent in Virginia. His name first appeared on the rolls of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1869, and he answered a call to serve as pastor of the church in Waynesboro, Virginia in 1870. For four years he served the Third Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, 1874-78, and his final pastorates were in West Virginia. The Rev. Samuel J. Baird died in Clifton Forge, Virginia on April 10, 1893.
Baird is perhaps best remembered as the author of The Assembly’s Digest, or Baird’s Digest as it most commonly known. This work is a compilation of the acts and deliverances of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., covering the years 1789-1855. It is a particularly valuable work for anyone wanting a resource on the actions and history of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The full title is A Collection of the Acts,Deliverances and Testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church from its origin in America to the present time : with notes and documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history (1856). Copies of this work are rare today in print form, but thankfully it is available on the Internet, here.
Words to Live By:
Another work by Dr. Baird was a catechism, titled The Church of Christ. A sampling of questions and answers from that book follow:
Q. 261. What are the rights of individuals with reference to personal religion?
A. It is the right and duty of every individual for himself, to read and study the Word of God, and ascertain the way of salvation therein set forth ,—by faith, to lay hold of and appropriate to himself that salvation and all the promises ,—and to come before the throne of God with boldness, in the name of Christ, and independent of all human instrumentalities and mediators, and there make his confessions and offer his prayers and praises, with assurance of acceptance and salvation. 
 John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19-21;
 Rev. 22:17.
 Rom. 10:12-13; Eph. 3:12; Heb. 10:19-22; Ps. 50:23; John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5.
Q. 264. What are the duties of private Christians toward others?
A. It is the duty of private Christians to be ready always to give to every one that asketh them, a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear; to watch for and use all suitable occasions to press upon the impenitent the free grace of Christ; to employ their means in relieving the temporal wants of the destitute; and, as they have opportunity, to do good to all men.
1 Peter 3:15; Rev. 22:17; Heb. 13:16; Gal. 6:10.
Q. 270. What are the principal religious duties of parents toward their children?
A. It is the duty of parents to dedicate their children to God ,—to bring them early to baptism, to teach them to know God, to pray to him, to read His Word, and to attend upon the public ordinances of the sanctuary , to exercise government and discipline upon them in love; and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; maintaining the stated worship of God in the house .
 Gen. 17:18; Mark 10:13-14.
 Gen. 18:19; 2 Tim. 3:14-15.
 Prov. 13:24; 22:15; Eph. 6:4; Gen. 12:7; 13:4, 18; 21:33; 35:1-4, 7; Deut. 6:7; Job 1:5.
Son of the Rev. Thomas Dickson Baird, and was born at Newark, Ohio, in September 1817. In 1839 he took charge of a school near Abbeville, SC, and subsequently opened a Female Seminary at Jeffersonville, LA. He studied theology in the seminary at New Albany, Indiana, and finished his literary training, which had been interrupted by feeble health at Jefferson College some years before, at Centre College, in 1843. After being licensed to preach, he devoted three years to the missionary work in the Presbytery of Baltimore, in Kentucky, and in the southwest. For three years he was pastor at Muscatine, Iowa, then pastor at Woodbury, New Jersey, until 1865. After resigning this charge, under a joint commission from the American Bible Society and the Virginia Bible Society, he labored as their agent in Virginia. He resided without charge at Covington, Kentucky in 1884 and presumably was there until his death in 1893. “Dr. Baird is a gentleman of decided ability.” In addition to the works shown below in the bibliography, Dr. Baird also authored works appearing in the Danville and the Princeton Reviews.
Papers of Samuel J. Baird [1817-1893], 650 items, 5 containers, 1.0 linear feet,
Abstract: Correspondence and miscellaneous material relating to Presbyterian Church affairs and doctrinal questions, the work of the American Bible Society in Virginia (1865-1875), and the Baird family. Includes letters concerning Baird’s efforts to minister to soldiers and to assist wounded soldiers and prisoners during the Civil War. Correspondents include James W. Alexander, E. Thompson Baird, Thomas Dickson Baird, William Logan Baird, Henry A. Boardman, John Breckinridge, Robert J. Breckinridge, William C. Cattell, Jeremiah Chamberlain, John T. Duffield, Robert Smith Finley, P. D. Gurley, Mark Hopkins, George Howe, Edward P. Humphrey, Richard McIlwaine, John Miller, John W. Nevins, Theodore Sutton Parvin, William S. Plummer, Stacy G. Potts, Hugh Reid, Stuart Robinson, William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Henry B. Smith, William B. Sprague, William J. R. Taylor, T. D. Witherspoon, and James Wood. Standard No: LCCN: mm 78-1155
A collection of the acts, deliverances and testimonies of the Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church, from its origin in America to the present time: with notes and documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete… (Phila., Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1855 Rev. ed.), 2 v. [IXA] Reprinted, A collection of the acts, deliverances, and testimonies : of the supreme judicatory of the Presbyterian Church, from its origin in America to the present time, with notes and documents explanatory and historical constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858, ©1855 [2nd ed.].), 880 p. ; 24 cm.
“Constitution of the Presbyterian Church,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 10.1 (April 1857) 1-16.
The Socinian Apostasy of the English Presbyterian Churches : A Discourse, delivered on behalf of the Presbyterian Historical Society, before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, in the First Presbyterian Church, New York, May 16th, 1856 (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Historical Society, 1857), 34 p. ; 24 cm.
“Edwards and the Theology of New England,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 10.4 (January 1858) 574-592.
“The Symmetry and Beauty of God’s Witnessing Church,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 11.3 (October 1858) 357-385.
The first Adam and the second. The Elohim revealed in the creation and redemption of man … (Philadelphia : Perry & McMilan, 1860), 688 p. 24 cm. Reprinted, (Philadelphia : Lindsay & Blakiston, 1860), 688pp.; 24 cm.
A rejoinder to the Princeton Review, upon The Elohim Revealed, touching the doctrine of imputation and kindred topics (Philadelphia, J.M. Wilson, 1860), 40 p.; 24 cm. [NTU; YUS]
Baird, Samuel J. and William Pennington, Southern Rights and Northern Duties in the Present Crisis : A Letter to Hon. William Pennington (Philadelphia : For sale by Lindsay & Blakiston ; Smith, English & Co. and other Booksellers, 1861), 32 p.; 22 cm. [PIT; ZYU]
The church of Christ : its constitution and order; a manual for the instruction of families, Sabbath-schools, and Bible classes (Philadelphia : Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1864), 144 p. ; 16 cm. [NJR; PRE; PRP; PTS; PUL; VUT; VYN]
A History of the Early Policy of the Presbyterian Church in the Training of Her Ministry and of the First Fifty Years of the Board of Education (Philadelphia : Published by the Board, 1865), 36 p. ; 22 cm. [DLC; GTX; KSU; NHL; PRE; RBN; YUS]
A history of the new school, and of the questions involved in the disruption of the Presbyterian church in 1838. (Philadelphia, Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1868), xii, 564 p. 20 cm.
“The History of Baptism,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 21.3 (July 1870) 303-338.
“The Gratuitous Imputation of Sin,” in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 27.2 (April 1876) 318-353.
A Bible History of Baptism (Philadelphia : James H. Baird, 1882), Microform 489 p.; ill.; 20 cm.; ISBN: 0790507862 (microfiche) 9780790507866 (microfiche). Note(s): At head of title: The great Baptizer./ Includes bibliographical references and index./ Reproduction: Microfiche./ Chicago :/ American Theological Library Association,/ 1989./ 2 microfiche ; 11 x 15 cm. High reduction. Silver based film./ (ATLA monograph preservation program ; ATLA fiche 1987-0786).
The Discussion on Reunion : A Review (Richmond, Va. : Whittet & Shepperson, 1888 2nd ed., enl.), Microform 50 p. ; 22 cm.; ISBN: 0524086672 (microfiche); ATLA fiche 1993-3192). [ATL; GTX; ICU; KPS; NDD; VYN; YUS]
The Fatherhood of God [Atlanta, Ga.? : Constitution Pub. Co.?, 1891), p. -362 ; 22 cm. [Note: Offprint from The Presbyterian Quarterly, 5.3 (July 1891) 350-362. [PKT]
“The Origin of the Visible Church,” in The Presbyterian Quarterly, 6.2 (April 1892) 264-270.